By Jason Shetler
As we are now a week away from the conclusion of Spring Training, I thought I would give out my 2017 Pirates Opening Day lineup. The Pirates will be facing a right-hander, which will be reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. This lineup probably won’t resemble Clint Hurdle’s, but here’s how I would construct it.
Leadoff: Francisco Cervelli (Catcher) – Having Cervelli in the leadoff spot is a drum that I’ve been beating on even before Spring Training began. Cervelli’s on base ability has been terrific with the Pirates, posting a .370 OBP in 2015 and a .377 mark last season.
Second: Josh Bell (First Base) – Bell should be ready on Opening Day, as he’s recovering from minor knee surgery he underwent in February. He posted a .368 OBP during his rookie season with the Pirates last year. I like the idea of having the first two batters of a lineup being solid on base guys.
Third: Andrew McCutchen (Right Field) – While McCutchen had a down year in 2016, his second half numbers did resemble vintage Cutch. He is certainly capable of bouncing back this season.
Cleanup: Gregory Polanco (Left Field) – It’s fair to assume that Jung-Ho Kang would have been the Bucs cleanup man to begin the season, but that won’t be the case, as visa issues won’t allow him back to the United States, following his drunk driving incident during this past offseason. Polanco is now the Pirates main power source, as he hit 22 home runs, while slugging .463 a season ago.
Fifth: Starling Marte (Center Field) – Marte had an odd year offensively in 2016. While he batted .311, he didn’t drive in many runs, with just 46 RBI in 489 at-bats. Marte drove in 81 runs in 2015, so his RBI production should resemble closer to that than last year.
Sixth: David Freese (Third Base) – For the second year in a row, Freese will be replacing Jung-Ho Kang as the Pirates Opening Day third baseman. In his first season with the Pirates, Freese put up a .352 OBP.
Seventh: Adam Frazier (Designated Hitter) – After being drafted by the Pirates in 2013, Frazier became one of the most consistent hitters in the system. During his rookie season with the Bucs in 2016, he had an OBP of .356. Frazier has been the top hitter in the Grapefruit League. Since the Pirates will be facing Porcello, it makes obvious sense to have Frazier’s lefty bat in the lineup for Opening Day.
Eighth: Josh Harrison (Second Base) – Since his 2014 All-Star campaign, Harrison has been a below league average player offensively. He will need to improve upon his on base mark from last season, which was at .311.
Ninth: Jordy Mercer (Shortstop) – Mercer enters his fourth season as the Pirates Opening Day shortstop. He has a track record of not performing well versus right-handed pitching, and that trend continued last year, as he posted just a .314 OBP.